Day 46: Netzach b’Malchut
by Maggid David Arfa
How do we endure? How do we persevere for the lang haul,
over decades? I remember how giddy I was during Earth Day 1990. I
graduated from Michigan
State with my brand new
Bachelor degrees in Environmental Policy and Wildlife Ecology while at the same
time, I saw Earth Day go mainstream! Newsweek, Time and dozens of other
magazines had glossy covers with real information about the state of the Earth – forest, oceans,
farmland, toxics, extinction and even climate change! In my euphoric
haze, it seemed to me that environmental education was to the 1990’s as
‘plastics’ were to the 1960’s. Lists of simple changes
were selling like hotcakes! The world seemed ready. I conveniently ignored my
confusion when my Valedictorian speaker squawked excitedly about how she can
now go out and buy all sorts of new things…stereo’s, clothes,
Cognitive dissonance was easy – sure, no one paid much
attention to the 50 difficult things to save the Earth list, however did that matter?
After all, a certain prince, er, senator, wrote the truly smart and visionary
book, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. He had entered
politics after taking classes in divinity school and working as an
investigative reporter! And then he actually became vice president and a
heartbeat from the presidency! We were one step away from the Garden of
Eden, weren’t we?
Needless to say, Mashiach, the Messiah, did not come. I find I am
a sucker for leaders who espouse hope, and yet, when I allow my hope to take up
residency inside their heart, I find myself eventually forsaken. Why is it so
easy to deny our inner source of hope, (as easy as a hand blocks the sun says
the Baal Shem Tov)? How do I learn to listen, as Emily Dickinson did, to
the hope with feathers perched in my own soul?
Could the prayerbook be seen as a hope manifesto? A healing remedy
for daily endurance and perseverance. After all, it is filled with gratitude,
wonder, love, emotional honesty, interconnectedness, presence, silence, grief
and a fierce yearning for personal and collective redemption. How does the
prayerbook manage to send us into our days with renewed hope in our hearts? What
does the prayerbook teach about hope?
Well, to open one facet of this diamond that is the prayerbook,
have you ever noticed how the powerful images of past national redeemings are
placed strategically? For instance, crossing the sea and becoming freed from
slavery is placed in the redemption blessing that comes just after the Shema. When
the grind of daily actions begins to overwhelm, our zeal begins to flag, and we
think our days will just go on and on with the same old drudgery, the same old
cranky conversations without ever getting to redemption, bam- the Rabbis remind
us of the success of past redemption. It happened before and it can happen
Remember, they seem to say, that our world is a non-linear system,
and our tomorrow can be very different from today. No one knew the day before
the Berlin Wall came down, and yet everything changed. No one could predict a
musical genius named Stevie Wonder would enter the world, and everything
changed. No one could predict that the small shrew like mammals living under
the feet of the dinosaurs would evolve into the robust bush of mammals we see
today! Who really knows what tomorrow will bring? Netzach b’Malchut.
Reflection/Action: What redemptive memories
do you carry that inspire you socially or politically? Reb Nachman of
Bratslav asks us to also remember personal redemptions – along with redemption
by sea…especially at Pesach. To remember and share personal stories about
surviving a life-threatening illness, fire or other calamity. What stories of
personal redemption do you carry?
For me, I
remember being 17 and illegally riding in a camp car with 5 other camp
counselors. It was during session break and no campers were around. We
were driving 50 mph, which was way too fast for the dirt road we were on.The
road turned left; we did not. Miraculously, we skidded off the road into the
only open patch of field along that roadside – all the rest of the roadside was forest trees. Hope renewed. How about your stories of redemption? Here's to the power of carrying on. Netzach b'Malchut.
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